NEW Giants sensation Michael Lawrence has paid tribute to the role being played by fellow centre Paul Whatuira in his rapid rise up the Super League ladder.
Kiwi Test ace Whatuira has been one of the stars of the Giants’ season, with every performance oozing class.
But the former Wests Tigers star has also been playing a massive off-field role, helping pass on the tricks of his trade to the young Giants players around him.
And Lawrence admits he is one of those who have reaped the benefits.
“Paul is a fantastic player, and I’m really grateful to be playing alongside him,” said 18-year-old Lawrence, whose second try in last Sunday’s big 50-16 Super League win over Hull KR at the Galpharm owed much to Whatuira’s skill.
“To be honest, he’s a bit of a mentor to me.
“I’ve learned an incredible amount off him this season, and I believe we’ve now built up a good relationship, both on and off the field.
“I feel lucky to be able to be in the same squad as him, because he’s one of the best centres around and is only too happy to help me improve my game.
“There’s no doubt that if I can keep learning off him I’ve got every chance of getting better.”
And for Lawrence to keep on improving is already a mouth-watering prospect.
Since making his Super League XIII bow in the home win over St Helens in March, the former Newsome Panthers junior hasn’t looked back.
He’s now played in the last nine top-flight games for his hometown club and will reach double figures in tonight’s clash at Catalans Dragons.
Lawrence will be up against another world-class centre in former Australian State of Origin star Adam Mogg, who was in last season’s Super League DreamTeam, along with Giants loose-forward Stephen Wild.
But having more than matched international Test centres Matt King (Australia and Warrington) and Jake Webster (New Zealand and Hull KR) in the past month, the multi-talented Lawrence is relishing taking on another top three-quarter.
“Playing against these big names isn’t something that bothers me,” added Lawrence.
“In fact, I absolutely love it, because the best way to improve is obviously to test yourself against the best.
“And I do believe I’m improving with every game I play, although I’m the first to admit I’ve still got an awful long way to go before I reach my full potential.
“It’s just a case of keeping my head down and trying to work as hard as I can.
“It’s great when you hear what Jon Sharp’s been saying about me and, when he says I can achieve whatever I want in the game, that means an incredible amount to me, because I’m a big fan of Jon.
“But he knows more than most what I need to do to improve my game, and I’m happy putting in all the hard work to get there.
“After thinking at the start of the year I might just play about five games in Super League this season, I’m loving every minute of my time in the first team.
“I now just want to keep on playing at this level, because it’s an absolute dream.”
A STAR IS BORN Michael Lawrence crosses for his first try in the Giants’ big Super League win over Hull KR six days ago. The 18-year-old is already making a name for himself at centre, and is quick to acknowledge the role being played by New Zealand Test star Paul Whatuira in helping in his rapid development